Literary issues…
I finally managed to track down the text to a very elusive and rare Roald Dahl short story entitled “In the Ruins”. I am absurdly proud of this. I like being an expert at something. Granted, it’s not in a very lucrative field, but I take some pride in the notion that (other than his relatives and biographers), I probably know more about Roald Dahl than anybody else on the planet. Isn’t that nuts? The thing is, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t actually enjoy his books anymore. He’s an academic challenge for me. I started the site as an exercise to learn HTML and produce some content, but somehow along the way it turned into something else. It’s like a job now. I do it because nobody else does and I think somebody ought to. There’s an odd feeling of possessiveness involved. Dahl is mine.

Which reminds me, I recently read A.S. Byatt’s Possession, which (among other things) is about the “cult of the author” and the way fans/critics/scholars deconstruct and construct writers’ lives. I identified with a lot of it. There’s quite a thrill associated with discovering something the “average” fan doesn’t know. I surf eBay and I have to restrain myself from the impulse to buy every crap piece of Dahl-iana that’s on offer. I don’t need the stuff, but the urge to possess everything is powerful. I found the character of Mortimer Cropper distasteful yet sympathetic. There but for the grace of God (and lack of a lot of money) go I.

To bring it back to “In the Ruins”, this story has only been reprinted a few times. It’s obviously not one that Dahl or his family felt would contribute to his legacy. So should I have bothered tracking it down? Do literary scholars have any responsibility to respect their (dead) subjects’ privacy? Is it wrong to make museum pieces out of someone’s personal items? I’m rambling. I think about these things though.

(Oh, and if you decide to read the story, be forewarned that it’s pretty gruesome. Best not read it right after lunch.)

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3 Comments

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  1. I think it’s great what you’re doing. Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of worthy stuff out there dedicated to Dahl (waa!), so your site really does stand out. Even if you sometimes feel like a bit of an obsessed nutter, it’s nice to know there’s an ‘authority’ out there one can go to for information. The comprehensiveness of your Dahl site is one of its best features.

  2. Awww, thanks! See, I’ve tried to make it into the kind of site I would like to visit. Unfortunately most of the feedback I get indicates that the majority of visitors are either A) schoolkids just looking for a homework answer or B) Willy Wonka film fans who’ve never read any of his books. It’s pretty depressing. But every now and then I get a great e-mail from some grown-up (usually a teacher) that just… makes my day. I’m as guilty as the next surfer of neglecting to thank the creators of my favorite sites. It’s something I should do more often, as I know how much of a boost it can bring somebody who’s feeling unappreciated.

    But anyway, THANKS! Every good comment ensures I keep working on it for a few more weeks. 🙂

  3. Ferret - The Third T

    October 11, 2002 — 5:14 am

    Keep up the good work on the site and stop dilly-dahlying around… 😉

    Nah it’s good to know that at some point you are bored you could write a book on the guy.

    From your comments about him, “being mine”, I personally wouldn’t add that as it makes you sound like a stalker.

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